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South Carolina vs. No. 22 Texas A&M: Keys and a pick

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Another shot at breaking a streak.

Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

When the Texas A&M Aggies come to town this afternoon, it will be as proud owners of a four-game winning streak against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The Gamecocks, for their part, have largely been outclassed in this matchup, with the exception of a narrow loss last season that went down to the fourth quarter. Can they finally take that next step and finally get on the board in this “rivalry”?

The keys

Light it up in the passing game. The Aggies defend the run very, very well, as evidenced by how they shut down Kentucky star Benny Snell in their upset victory last week. However, much like Missouri, A&M’s secondary is suspect, and the opportunity is there for the Gamecocks’ receivers to have a big day. Provided he’s actually healthy, Jake Bentley needs to be on — and just as important, his receivers can’t continue dropping well-thrown passes that hit them on the hands or in the numbers. It’s unlikely South Carolina will generate any big plays out of the running game, so any chance at explosiveness likely hinges on Bentley and Co.

Play some semblance of run defense. This is a tough ask, since South Carolina is currently 13th in the SEC in rushing defense and looks every bit as bad as that statistic would imply. A&M’s Trayveon Williams is a dynamic back who leads the conference in rushing, and quarterback Kellen Mond is very mobile — something the Gamecocks have historically struggled with defending. The Aggies will no doubt do their best to establish the run, and they’ll certainly get their yards. But if South Carolina can reprise its red zone performance against Missouri and come up with a lot of stops and/or force field goal attempts, that will minimize the damage.

Force a turnover or two. A&M has been turnover-prone this season, although it’s hard to fault anyone for losing the ball against defenses like Alabama’s and Clemson’s. The Gamecocks haven’t ball-hawked as much as they did last year, but did manage to come up with a timely and game-changing pick-six against Missouri. South Carolina will need to be on the hunt for more opportunities like that to keep a dangerous offense in check.

The pick

As I’ve said before, I just can’t pick the Gamecocks to beat A&M until they prove it’s possible. Maybe Jimbo Fisher won’t have the same dark magic in effect that Kevin Sumlin did, or maybe South Carolina just plays a heckuva game today. I certainly hope they do, but for now, I see another almost-but-not-quite loss to the Aggies, with a 24-17 or 24-20 type of score.